In my post last week on the Kyl Amendment, I noted that the Obama administration needs to more forcefully make the affirmative case for the START follow-on treaty, with particular emphasis on (1) why a new arms control treaty with Russia will increases U.S. security and (2) rebutting arguments made by skeptics of the START follow-on process.
As if right on cue, newly-appointed Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Ellen Tauscher did just that in her remarks at the STRATCOM Deterrence Symposium on July 30 in Omaha, Nebraska. I’ve excerpted her comments on START from her full remarks below the jump. My only (minor) qualm is that I would have led with how the new treaty “will enhance our national security and provide for an effective deterrent.” Instead, Tauscher begins by stating that the new treaty ” is the beginning of a new narrative for the post-Cold War generation that need not be paralyzed by the threat of nuclear war and it is a down payment for deeper reductions in the future.” But overall it was an excellent case for the START follow-on treaty.
Update 8/6: John argues that while Tauscher’s remarks were effective in rebutting criticisms of the START follow-on process, they were largely silent on why nuclear reductions are important and would benefit U.S. security. I think that’s a fair point, though given that this was the first real effort on the part of a high-ranking administration official to make the case for the agreement, this was still a strong initial step.
Let me start by making the strongest case I can for the New START Treaty.
I believe the New START Treaty is the beginning of a new narrative for the post-Cold War generation that need not be paralyzed by the threat of nuclear war and it is a down payment for deeper reductions in the future.
We are fortunate to begin our work on the foundations already established by the Limited Test Ban, INF, SALT, START, and the Moscow Treaty as well as the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Rose Gottemoeller and an interagency team are hard at work with their Russian counterparts drafting the New START treaty that will combine the predictability of START with the flexibility of the Moscow Treaty. In the recent Moscow Summit’s Joint Understanding, two separate limits are set out for delivery vehicles and their associated warheads. In case there is doubt, you can find it in paragraph four of the Joint Understanding. Both of these steps will enhance our national security and provide for an effective deterrent.
I want to take a minute to address some of the criticism that’s been directed at the New START treaty. Some say that the new treaty will not induce other countries to give up their weapons programs.
We are not so naïve as to believe that problem states will end their proliferation programs if the United States and Russia reduce our nuclear arsenals. But we are confident that progress in this area will reinforce the central role of the NPT and help us build support to sanction or engage states on favorable terms to us. Our collective ability to bring the weight of international pressure against proliferators would be undermined by a lack of effort towards disarmament.
Critics have also said that we are putting the New START treaty ahead of the Nuclear Posture Review. That is not the case. As many of you know, the Obama Administration tasked the NPR, as a first step, to develop a nuclear force structure and posture for use in the negotiations.
While the NPR’s work is still going on, it will inform the positions we take as we negotiate the New START treaty with Russia. The United States’ positions in the treaty negotiations are fully consistent with the nuclear policy strategy and force structure being developed in the NPR. I want to thank STRATCOM for its substantial contributions to this process.
Regardless of the numbers and force structure and strategy identified by the NPR, we need a robust nuclear infrastructure. We need to ensure that there is a safe and effective deterrent as long as nuclear weapons exist without nuclear testing. I strongly support the critical role that extended deterrence has played in our national security policy. It must remain a central element of our national security policy. We must be able to tell our allies, “We’ve got your back.” This is one of the key issues being addressed in the NPR.
The Obama administration and key stakeholders must address the serious need to bolster the human capital and infrastructure necessary to maintain a credible, safe, secure, and effective nuclear stockpile. As our nuclear arsenal is reduced to its appropriate level, these capabilities will become even more critical. A loss of the skilled engineers, technicians, planners, and operators, increases the risks and uncertainties we could face in the years to come.
Because of the critical role a viable nuclear arsenal has in our deterrent strategy, I helped write sections of the Defense Authorization bill that are intended to help ensure a sustainable nuclear deterrent as long as we need it. It’s called the Stockpile Management Program. It’s right there in section 4204 of the bill. We were very specific that the program increase the reliability, safety, and security of the stockpile without having to test.
And we built a fence around the program. We said that any changes to the stockpile cannot create new weapons and should further decrease the likelihood of testing. This is going to survive in conference and the next hurdle is to make sure that Stockpile Management is properly funded.
I want to make one last point. President Obama and Russian President Medvedev agreed that missile defenses will not be part of these negotiations, even while recognizing that there is an inherent link between offenses and defenses, something first recognized by the Nixon administration in 1972. The New START Treaty is about offensive arms.
We have agreed to continue to discuss these issues separately with the Russian government. But we have made it clear, our missile defense plans in Europe are aimed at the burgeoning Iranian capability and are not directed at Russia. I’m a strong supporter of missile defense. I know they have the potential to protect against attacks by countries with ballistic missile arsenals, like North Korea and Iran.
So we will pursue programs that are operationally and cost effective. The problem is that if we build systems that don’t address near term threats or are not thoroughly tested, we’ll lose the support of the American people. That’s why, I often say, that I have worked to protect missile defense from its most ardent supporters.